Friday, May 05, 2006

Pamuk, PEN World Voices

Orhan Pamuk on April 25 delivered the inaugural Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Memorial Lecture at the PEN World Voices festival:

I always have difficulty expressing my political judgments in a clear, emphatic, and strong way — I feel pretentious, as if I'm saying things that are not quite true. This is because I know I cannot reduce my thoughts about life to the music of a single voice and a single point of view — I am, after all, a novelist, the kind of novelist who makes it his business to identify with all of his characters, especially the bad ones. Living as I do in a world where, in a very short time, someone who has been a victim of tyranny and oppression can suddenly become one of the oppressors, I know also that holding strong beliefs about the nature of things and people is itself a difficult enterprise. I do also believe that most of us entertain these contradictory thoughts simultaneously, in a spirit of good will and with the best of intentions. The pleasure of writing novels comes from exploring this peculiarly modern condition whereby people are forever contradicting their own minds. It is because our modern minds are so slippery that freedom of expression becomes so important: we need it to understand ourselves, our shady, contradictory, inner thoughts, and the pride and shame that I mentioned earlier.

I don't know that it's a peculiarly modern condition, but it's one Pamuk explores superbly in Snow.

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